The (Inclusive) Tables Down At Mory’s

November 30, 2010

Yale University is unique among top colleges, and even among other Ivies, in that it boasts a private club on campus. Well, not completely unique: Dartmouth College fully owns and operates the Hanover Country Club, membership in which is open to Dartmouth students.

But Yale really has something special in Mory’s: a private club in New Haven, right on York Street, catering to (and offering) the exclusivity and pedigreed stratification of a social structure which grew out of the same university responsible for Skull & Bones.

Mory’s came into being one evening after crew practice in New Haven: a group of oarsmen from Yale’s Class of 1863 found an unpretentious ale house at 103 Wooster Street, between Franklin and Bowery, and stopped in for a drink. The rowers found themselves served and entertained by Frank Moriarty, proprietor of the tavern “whose hospitality and dignity belied its dingy surroundings.”

After temporarily closing due to financial difficulties in 2008, the newly opened Mory's is trying to be more inclusive as it seeks to expand its membership.

Word spread, and Mr. Moriarty’s pub gained in popularity at a steady clip: soon, he had all the Yale business he could handle. He died in 1876 and his wife – known locally as The Widow – moved the business to Temple Street, and into more aristocratic lodging. When The Widow died, her longtime manager Edward G. Oakley took over and immediately gave every undergraduate $20.00 worth of credit at the newly christened Temple Bar. As students neared their limit, Mr. Oakley would gently remind them of their debt and thereafter accept only cash from that customer. He never dunned any man beyond that gentle reminder and nobody ever asked to have his limit extended; in ten years, Mr. Oakley lost only $25.00 in that system.

In 1912, The Mory’s Association was formed to ensure the longevity of the bar. The Association began issuing shares of the venture to Yalies and, eventually, converted the shareholding membership into a private club. The Association bought a new house for the club and many of the old bar’s original furnishings and fittings were bustled into the new property and installed there: windows and door casings, wainscoting, the entire front entrance, tables, chairs, and fireplace mantels.

The club fell on hard times in 2008 and shut its doors temporarily; the Association raised money for a grand re-opening and renovation and, in the midst of it, secured financing by loosening membership requirements in a bid for a greater dues-paying base. And it worked: membership among undergraduates is nearly 2,000 now, 75% of the club’s goal. Christopher Getman, president of the Mory’s Council, couldn’t be more pleased. His administration’s goal of increasing inclusivity by relaxing membership requirements has seen the to club prosperous times, and Mory’s financial footing, if not its original character, is solid again.


Happy Thanksgiving

November 24, 2010

Enjoy your holiday; we’ll be back soon.


Overstepping Bounds & Constitutional Conventions

November 23, 2010

This past week, United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia spoke at the University of Richmond about originalism (the method of Constitutional interpretation he subscribes to, in which the language of the document is given its most literal meaning).

In Justice Scalia’s opinion, the Founders of this country spoke very clearly through their Constitution and it’s not up to us to re-found America or its laws; rather, our task as citizens is to uphold those original Constitutional values and live according to them. Treating the document as something living and changeable, Justice Scalia said, allows “five out of nine hotshot lawyers to run the country” (presumably by arguing for whatever whimsical interpretation of the Constitution most fits the momentary needs of their client).

Justice Scalia also criticized the broadening interpretation of the 14th Amendment’s due process clause, which guarantees access to the process of law (courts, judges and the like). Lately, he says, that clause has been expanded well beyond its intended scope to guarantee particular freedoms, though it was never meant by the Founders to be a guarantee of liberties; only a guarantee that liberties wouldn’t be taken without some kind of legal process.

Messrs. Washington, Jefferson and Adams lived in a world in which the English monarch could confiscate their lands and holdings at will; they wanted their new government, should a similar need to confiscate arise, to at least be accountable to some fair judicial process, pre-confiscation, wherein the owner of requisitioned things could plead his case against the requisitioning.

Specifically, Justice Scalia spoke against the applicability of the due process clause being enlarged to fit abortion. In his opinion, the clause doesn’t guarantee the freedom to have abortions… only the freedom to not be deprived of them without due process. Implicitly, then, people can be deprived of the freedom to have abortions so long as the deprived have their day in court first. Justices should uphold the original meaning of the Founders’ Constitution, Justice Scalia believes; they shouldn’t take it upon themselves to issue rulings which extend its reach to areas it was never intended to reach, or which force parts of it to perform functions they were never intended to.

People do, and probably always will, disagree with Justice Scalia. They argue that judges can’t rely on the intent of the Founders in coming to conclusions because their intent is almost impossible to guess at. They lived centuries ago, in a world very different from ours. Plus, a good number of words and grammatical constructions don’t have the same meaning today as they did in 1776.

Still, there is one intention of theirs which is very clear today, and which is easily identifiable because it’s set down in all of our founding documents and is one of the most essential tenets of our government: there are three branches of government and they operate independently of each other, so that any one might check and balance the other two. No one branch was meant to have more power than another. Revolutionary Americans fought a war to throw off one monarch, and they meant for their founding documents to guard them against any one branch of their new government taking too much power and becoming a new monarchy.

In that regard, Justice Scalia, politically correct or not, is absolutely right. It is not for one branch of government to do another’s job. If there is one founding intent we can be sure of, it’s that government is limited in this regard: each branch does its own work, and nobody else’s. And extending the reach of the Constitution, when and if necessary, is not the judicial branch’s job.

Are there likely some things in our founding papers which are outdated? Probably. Provisions dealing with African-Americans and women come to mind most quickly. Are there some portions of our Constitution which should be changed or made more modern? There probably are, which is why that document includes a mechanism for revision: the Constitutional amendment… not the courts.

It’s possible that the particulars of the Constitution (though never its core ideals) have to change and adapt over time to address “advances” in culture and technology. What is equally apparent is that, when it comes to how those changes are effected, Justice Scalia is dead-on: it’s not the courts’ job to make them. That task belongs to the legislature, and to the citizens of this country. If the Founders were clear about anything, it’s that.


The Prince Albert Slipper-y Slope

November 22, 2010

Prince Albert slippers are uniquely situated in the haberdashers’ galaxy for their uncanny ability to do for men what threshers do for farms: that is, separate the wheat from the chaff. Or the boys from the men.

Or, more to it, the men from the much more WASP-ily effete men. But if effected Brahmin effetism is a crime, then your staff is (with apologies to Wm. Shakespeare’s Henry VIII) “the most offending soul alive.”

In our defense, we’re in good company. Specifically, Bobby Kennedy. And Ralph Lauren. And Dean Martin. And, of course, His Royal Highness Prince Albert, who married Queen Victoria in 1840 and lent his name to the slipper as his wife lent hers to the era. 

"Specifically, Bobby Kennedy."

Gentlemen of Victorian England, ever exemplars of propriety, refused to wear their shoes indoors. The behavior likely owed as much to the poor condition of Victorian streets as to manners: shoes (and feet) of the period took a daily beating at the hands of mud-slick cobblestones and street grime.

So Victorian men, indoors, changed into house-shoes. And Victorian gentlemen, in shodding, preferred Prince Albert slippers. Today, the slippers are as much acceptable outdoors as in. “Some young people are starting to wear slippers outside,” observed Richard Edgecliffe-Johnson, chairman of London’s oldest bespoke shoemakers, W.S. Foster, recently. “A young, dapper-looking Australian fellow who works for one of our graphic design firms came to the office this summer in a pair of velvet slippers.”  

The Prince Albert slipper, above, is loafer-shaped and pulls on; there are no laces. They’re made of velvet and have a raised leather heel, so that they can be worn lightly outdoors. They come either unlined or lined in quilted silk.

The more rakish also come embroidered: monograms across the toe are popular, as are coats of arms. American makers Stubbs & Wootton and Del Toro, both of Florida, offer more whimsical fare: slippers embroidered with martini glasses, skulls-and-crossed-bones, dollar and euro signs, sail boats, and that sort of thing. Del Toro in particular seems intent on cornering J. Crew’s embroidered critter market.

Brooks Brothers offers a model in black velvet, with its emblematic “BB” in gold script across the toe, and couturiers Ralph Lauren and Paul Stuart each sell a take on the Prince Albert.

“We’ve noticed a growing interest in our men’s slippers, especially from America.” That’s Hilary Freeman, managing director of Edward Green & Co., boot-makers of Northampton, England since 1890 and purveyors of Alberts. “This is slowly moving west to Europe, then Russia and onwards. We are even starting to see interest in Japan.”

And there, the defense rests.


Real Deal STL

November 17, 2010

Though not in the practice of shilling products, your editorial staff fully endorses The Real Deal STL, the online venture of a good friend and local entrepreneur. There, St. Louisans can find coupons and vouchers good at local businesses and restaurants, for a variety of products and services. Deals change daily, so check back often. Today’s is $25.00 worth of Italian food, for $10.00.


DRFC Leads Ivy Scoreboard

November 15, 2010

The Dartmouth Rugby Football Club lead the Ivy League in Rugby Magazine‘s annual compilation of top-scoring collegiate ruggers; seven DRFC players made the top scorer’s list, and the team lead the League in overall scoring and points.

Ed Hagerty, who edits the magazine, divided the top scorers into two categories: top try scorers and top point scorers, the latter recognizing points scored by kickers. This season, Dartmouth ruggers scored a total of 436 points against opponents, while allowing only 30 points scored against themselves. 


The Scholarly McSorley’s

November 10, 2010

The American Scholar recently ran a great piece on McSorley’s, the Manhattan landmark and American’s oldest continuously-operating saloon. In it, the author recounts his pilgrim’s roadtrip to McSorley’s, inspired by Joseph Mitchell’s essay “The Old House At Home” and by e.e. cummings: “I was sitting in McSorley’s, outside it was New York and beautifully snowing.”

The bulk of the piece deals with getting to the tavern, not the place itself, but the text of a postcard provides all you need to know about McSorley’s: Since 1854 this famous Old Ale House has been known for its fine home-cooked food and excellent Ale served to a world-wide male clientele.

mcsorley's front